Urban pushed through the mass of humanity. Even in the middle of the night, his obscured sanctuary had become the focal point of the entire complex. Dozens of unfamiliar faces littered the crowd, barely lit by the string of yellow lights that hung from the ceiling. He’d chosen an unfinished room tucked in the center of Na Creidmhigh. There were stacks of drywall off to one side, which some people stood on to get a better view. He scanned the crowd, noticed people in the next room over, peering through exposed steel beams. The entire area smoldered with body heat as the gap in the crowd closed behind him.
The tension in his stomach spread through his body as he realized how unruly this gathering could get. His words wouldn’t make it out of here whole, twisting from their original form the further they stretched down the line. He climbed up to the makeshift stage at the back of the room, stepping into the dim light in the midst of the gloom.
He clapped twice, hard, and the room fell silent except for murmuring down the halls.
He let the silence hang, locking eyes with Gilpin, Sern, a few of the other seasoned members he knew he could trust. He gave slight nods to them, steeled himself for what would come next.
“It’s great to see such a fervent turnout. Guess I’m going to have to call more of these emergency meetings.” A few laughs, but the blanket of silence held strong. “First of all, the elephant in the room, so to speak, is Raine. Yes, I found him. Yes, I talked to him.” He paused then said, “And he needs our support now more than ever. He’s out there, on the run, trying to survive this ordeal. He’s been there for many of you even when he had other obligations to Keir.
“He’s not the reason that I called you here, though,” Urban continued, the pit stretched, leaving him feeling sick. “There is another attempted murderer in this building. He is not here amongst us, but I have experienced his treachery.”
He paused, took a deep breath, then spoke plainly.
“His name is Carrick Uren.”
An explosion of sound ricocheted amidst the packed room. Shouts cascaded over one another. He listened, watching faces in the crowd shift. Messengers broke from the crowd and slipped into the hallways, spreading his version of the truth.
“I had found Raine, prepared to bring him in, when Carrick opened fire on the two of us. I tried to stop him, but he aimed straight at me and fired. If it hadn’t been for Raine, I would be dead. If we do not take Carrick in now,” the crowd had thinned dramatically, “he will come after each one of us with prejudice. He wants to run this place, whether or not Keir will hand it over willingly. This is his chance. Probably his only one.”
“Have you told Keir?” a man shouted from the back.
“No. I wanted to inform you first. All of you. In case,” he looked down, took a deep breath, and said in a level voice, “something happens to me.” The crowd was nothing but a smattering of people. Soon the messengers would spread his declaration of war, as it were. He had little time to reach Keir and stop Carrick’s insurrection.
“If you stand with me, I’ll ask you to stay behind. But I will not go willingly into the hands of a man who just tried to murder me.” He let that stand, then said, “For now, meeting adjourned.”
Urban turned his back on the group, walked to a table set against the wall. He braced himself, breathing heavily as he fought against the pounding in his ears. Several members tried to approach with questions, but he stood there with his eyes closed, choking back the fear that threatened to overwhelm him. When the last of the footsteps trailed away, he looked back to see thirty-three stood there with conviction in their eyes.
Gilpin approached. “Si—Urban, we’re here to help.”
A weak smile flitted across Urban’s face. He nodded. “Gather your belongings, we can’t stay here. One sack only, what you can carry.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to warn Keir.” Worried glances passed between the members. “Any of you want to come with me? You know, just in case.”
Gilpin stepped up, nodded.
Urban smiled, the warmth in his eyes barely hanging on.
They moved as a group through the passages. Urban led them, Gilpin on his right flank. As they passed the main lobby, he noted some of the men from the meeting hung at the edge of the room, eyeballing each one as they passed. Urban held his head high. They’d remember him. He’d made sure of that.
Then they split. The majority of them took the elevators, heading back to their respective rooms. Already the whispers had built in strength and they had little time to gather their things.
Soon, Carrick’s retribution would follow.